Vettel takes dominant win in India

Sebastian Vettel achieved his eleventh victory of the season with a dominant lights-to-flag drive in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

After setting records in qualifying matching Ayrton Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio’s record in pole positions, the youngest back-to-back champion took his twenty-first career win, setting a new record for most laps led during a season.

The Red Bull driver’s latest triumph was one of his most straightforward in his championship-winning year. As front-row starter and team-mate Mark Webber was attacked by Jenson Button’s McLaren and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on the opening lap, allowed Vettel free to pull clear.

The world champion had a margin around four to five seconds for most of the race, as he led every lap and completed a perfect performance with the fastest lap at the Buddh International Circuit.

Button got through to second at Turn 1, as Alonso twitched under braking and ran wide, letting Webber keep third. The Australian then applied some pressure on Button over the opening laps, before the McLaren managed to escape and head off for an ultimately uncontested second.

Webber then lost third place to Alonso in the final pit-stops, when being the first of the frontrunners to change to the hard Pirellis cost him.

Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa’s turbulent season continued with yet another collision between them. The Ferrari had got ahead of the McLaren on the first lap and was a safe distance ahead until an error on lap 24 left Massa vulnerable to attacks from Hamilton.

On the next lap, Hamilton had a run on the Ferrari approaching Turn 5. Massa moved to defend his position but Hamilton was able to get down the inside on his rival. Massa turned in, and contact was as inevitable as it was avoidable.

The race stewards concluded Massa had caused the latest collision between the two and handed him a drive-through penalty.

Massa later retired when he smashed his front suspension on a kerb, just as he had in qualifying, while Hamilton recovered from ninth to seventh after pitting for a new front wing.

Hamilton finished behind the Silver Arrows, which were led by Michael Schumacher, who had moved onto Nico Rosberg’s tail with a fast start then jumped his Mercedes team-mate for fifth with a late final pit-stop.

Toro Rosso looked set to get both cars in the points until Sebastien Buemi stopped with smoke pouring from his car. Jaime Alguersuari went on to take eighth, ahead of Adrian Sutil’s Force India, and Sergio Perez, as the Sauber driver proved the most successful of those who ran ultra-short opening stints on the prime tyre then switched to the soft option for the duration.

Perez narrowly beat Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who followed the same strategy. Bruno Senna challenged for points in the second Renault but was hampered by KERS issues and finished in P12, followed by Force India’s Paul di Resta and Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus – which showed strong race pace to run as high as P10.

The Buddh International Circuit layout proved tricky for the 24-car field to safely navigate as one on the first lap. First a brush between the two Williams sent Rubens Barrichello into Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber, which then rejoined in the path of Timo Glock’s Virgin. Among several other brushes of wheels around the lap, Jarno Trulli was left with a puncture after his Lotus was punted into a spin by an HRT of Narain Karthikeyan.

After two difficult weeks in motor racing, it was a nice fitting tribute to see the Formula One drivers paying their respect to the late Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli by putting on a good, successful show in India.

Race results from the Indian Grand Prix, 60 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h30:35.002
2.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +8.433
3.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +24.301
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +25.529
5.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +1:05.421
6.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +1:06.851
7.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +1:24.183
8.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1 lap
9.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
10.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
11.  Petrov        Renault                    +1 lap
12.  Senna         Renault                    +1 lap
13.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1 lap
14.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +2 laps
15.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +2 laps
16.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
17.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps
18.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps
19.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +4 laps

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:27.457

Not classified/retirements:

Massa         Ferrari                      33 laps
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           25 laps
Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth            13 laps
Glock         Virgin-Cosworth              3 laps
Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari               1 lap

World Championship standings, round 17:

1.  Vettel       374
2.  Button       240
3.  Alonso       227
4.  Webber       221
5.  Hamilton     202
6.  Massa         98
7.  Rosberg       75
8.  Schumacher    70
9.  Petrov        36
10.  Heidfeld      34
11.  Sutil         30
12.  Kobayashi     27
13.  Alguersuari   26
14.  Di Resta      21
15.  Buemi         15
16.  Perez         14
17.  Barrichello    4
18.  Senna          2
19.  Maldonado      1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          595
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          442
3.  Ferrari                   325
4.  Mercedes                  145
5.  Renault                    72
6.  Force India-Mercedes       51
7.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         41
8.  Sauber-Ferrari             41
9.  Williams-Cosworth           5

Next race: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina. November 11-13.

Vettel takes pole in inaugural Indian Grand Prix

World champion Sebastian Vettel took his thirteenth pole position of the season with a commanding performance in qualifying for Formula One’s inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was quickest in Q2, and carried that form into Q3 with a provisional pole time of one minute, 24.437 seconds on his first flying lap.

His rivals were unable to beat it and yet Vettel went even quicker to set a lap time of one minute, 24.178 seconds to firmly secure pole position at the Buddh International Circuit.

Following the penalty for Lewis Hamilton, who qualified in second but will receive a three-place grid drop for ignoring yellow flags during Friday’s practice session, it will be an all-Red Bull Racing front row.

Hamilton will now start the race in fifth position while Webber will be promoted from third to second on the grid.

Fernando Alonso was just 0.011 seconds down on Webber in the Ferrari, with Jenson Button next up for McLaren.

Felipe Massa took the sixth quickest time despite crashing in the final moments of Q3 when the Brazilian smashed his front-right suspension over a kerb at Turn Eight, which resulted in him skated off into the gravel at the next corner.

Nico Rosberg was seventh for Mercedes, while the remaining Q3 drivers all chose to sit out the segment to save a set of fresh Pirellis for the race.

Adrian Sutil was classified eighth for Force India while his team-mate Paul di Resta will start in P13. Both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi also reached Q3 but Toro Rosso opted not to run.

Toro Rosso’s strong performance in qualifying squeezed some likely top ten names outside the Q3 cut. Neither Renault made it with Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna starting the race back in P11 and P15, although Petrov could consider himself unlucky as he equalled tenth-placed Alguersuari’s Q2 time but the Spaniard got there first. The Russian is also carrying a five-place grid penalty for colliding with Michael Schumacher in Korea.

Schumacher also narrowly missed out, by just a margin of 0.018 seconds and will start the Indian Grand Prix in P12.

The Williams of Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello sandwiched Senna in P14 and P16.

It was a tough qualifying session for Sauber. Sergio Perez was only P17 and will take a three-place penalty for the same misdemeanour as Hamilton, while Kamui Kobayashi was eliminated in Q1. The same could have happened to either Button or Schumacher had they not squeezed out strong late laps amid traffic.

HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan qualified ahead of both Virgin Racing for his home race, and will gain another position from his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo taking a gearbox penalty. Another gearbox fault meant Timo Glock was unable to set a lap time.

So yet another impressive performance by Sebastian Vettel in the flying Red Bull. His thirteenth pole position of the season, matching Ayrton Senna’s record. The youngest back-to-back champion is only one pole away from equaling Nigel Mansell’s achievement.

As for the team, this was Red Bull Racing’s sixteenth pole of the year. A superb record in their championship-winning season.

Qualifying positions for the Indian Grand Prix:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m24.178s
2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m24.508s
3.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m24.519s
4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m24.950s
5.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m24.474s*
6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m25.122s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m25.451s
8.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes No time
9.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari No time
10.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari No time
11.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m26.337s
12.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m26.503s
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m26.537s
14.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m26.651s
15.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m27.247s
16.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m26.319s**
17.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m27.876s
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m28.565s
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m28.752s
20.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m27.562s*
21.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m30.216s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m30.866s
23.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m34.046s***
24.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m30.238s****

107 per cent time: 1 minute, 32.222 seconds

*Three-place penalty (speeding under double-waved yellow flags)
**Five-place penalty (caused an avoidable accident in the Korean Grand Prix)
***Outside 107 per cent time, will need permission from stewards to start
****Five-place penalty (gearbox change, according to team)

Vettel win seals Red Bull title in Korea

Seven days after winning the drivers’ championship in Suzuka, world champion Sebastian Vettel scored his tenth Grand Prix victory of the season with a commanding drive in Yongam and in the process, sealing the constructors’ title for Red Bull Racing.

The 24-year old German was able to use the slipstream effect and KERS to get real close to Lewis Hamilton. He simply outbraked his race rival into Turn 4 and after that decisive move on the opening lap, the new world champion was left unchallenged to take his twentieth career win.

A safety car period wiped out Vettel’s four-second lead when Vitaly Petrov took Michael Schumacher out of the race at Turn 3. It seemed that Petrov misjudged his braking point fighting with Fernando Alonso and couldn’t stop in time and rammed the innocent Schumacher.

When racing resumed, Vettel was again able to pull away. His eventual winning margin over polesitter Hamilton was twelve seconds.

Hamilton’s runner-up spot was anything but easy as Mark Webber was never more than 1.5 seconds behind him.

A quick decision on the pitwall to bring Hamilton in for his final pit-stop just as his rear tyres were beginning to go off managed to keep him ahead of the Australian – who also stopped on the same lap.

The Red Bull driver seemed to have more pace than Hamilton, with the pair even running side-by-side for a number of corners on lap 34. Webber eventually made it by with a move into Turn 1 with five laps to the flag.

But thanks to the superior traction in the McLaren, and employing a tactic of using all his KERS and DRS at the same time, Hamilton retook the position seconds later on the long run down to Turn 3, and held it to the chequered flag.

Jenson Button fell from third to sixth on the opening lap following strong starts from the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Such was Massa’s lack of pace on the worn Pirellis, that Nico Rosberg made it a four-way battle for the position as they approached the opening round of pit-stops.

While Alonso dropped out of the battle after staying out too long on worn tyres, the action switched focus to Button and Rosberg, who pitted together on lap 14.

Thanks to the swift tyre-change from the Mercedes GP’s team pitcrew, Rosberg got out ahead of Button (with the pair running side-by-side in the pitlane), but then Rosberg made a mistake by outbraking himself and running wide as the rejoined the circuit.

Rosberg regained the position with the aid of the Drag Reduction System a few seconds later, but could only keep Button behind for another lap.

Massa, by this time, had fallen behind the pair, and was also overtaken by Alonso at the second round of pit-stops, after a couple of sensational and consistent laps from the Spaniard.

Button and Alonso finished in fourth and fifth position, just behind the Hamilton/Webber battle, while Massa was next up for the Scuderia.

Jaime Alguersuari put in a strong performance to finish in seventh, the Spaniard passing Rosberg on the final lap after a couple of unsuccessful earlier attempts, while his Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastien Buemi was one place further back.

Paul di Resta completed the points scorers, ahead of his Force India team-mate Adrian Sutil, while Pastor Maldonado – who was in the mix with the Force Indias behind the safety car, was given a drive-through penalty for hitting a bollard at pit entry, and later retired.

So in the space of two weeks, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing have been crowned the drivers’ and constructors’ championship. An impressive achievement and their record this season has been faultless, with one hundred per cent reliability especially from the Renault engine. With three races left, the fight for the runner-up spot remains.

The next Grand Prix is in a fortnight’s time in India and it will be fascinating how the drivers and teams will adapt to the new circuit, the Buddh International Circuit.

Race results from Yongam, 55 laps:

1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h30:01.994
2.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +12.019
3.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +12.477
4.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +14.694
5.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +15.689
6.  Massa         Ferrari                    +25.133
7.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +49.538
8.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +54.053
9.  Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:02.762
10.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1:08.602
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +1:11.229
12.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1:33.068
13.  Senna         Renault                    +1 lap
14.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +1 lap
15.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
16.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +1 lap
17.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +1 lap
18.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +1 lap
19.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +1 lap
20.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +1 lap
21.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +3 laps

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:39.605

Not classified/retirements:
Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth            31 laps
Petrov        Renault                      17 laps
Schumacher    Mercedes                     16 laps

World Championship standings, round 16:

1.  Vettel       349
2.  Button       222
3.  Alonso       212
4.  Webber       209
5.  Hamilton     196
6.  Massa         98
7.  Rosberg       67
8.  Schumacher    60
9.  Petrov        36
10.  Heidfeld      34
11.  Sutil         28
12.  Kobayashi     27
13.  Alguersuari   22
14.  Di Resta      21
15.  Buemi         15
16.  Perez         13
17.  Barrichello    4
18.  Senna          2
19.  Maldonado      1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          558
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          418
3.  Ferrari                   310
4.  Mercedes                  127
5.  Renault                    72
6.  Force India-Mercedes       49
7.  Sauber-Ferrari             40
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         37
9.  Williams-Cosworth           5

Next race: Indian Grand Prix, New Delhi. October 28-30.

Hamilton ends Red Bull’s qualifying run with pole in Korea

Lewis Hamilton has ended Red Bull Racing’s excellent qualifying form this season by taking pole position at the Korea International Circuit. This was his first pole since last year’s Canadian Grand Prix.

By taking his nineteenth career pole position, the McLaren driver has finally halted the dominant run by Red Bull in claiming poles stretching back to Abu Dhabi last year. Hamilton’s lap time of one minute, 35.820 seconds was impressive and he will take satisfaction in beating pole master Sebastian Vettel by three-hundredths of a second.

New world champion Sebastian Vettel will line up on the front row but in unusual spot of second place, ahead of Japanese Grand Prix winner Jenson Button.

Hamilton was quickest in the first two parts of qualifying, and then pipped Vettel by 0.03 seconds as they made their first Q3 runs.

Button had briefly made it an all-McLaren front row with his final Q3 run, and even though Vettel managed to beat the time with one minute, 36.042 seconds on his second run, it was Hamilton who achieved the goal in taking pole position.

Despite that, Vettel should have the advantage in the race after saving a set of the soft (Prime) tyre, following an unusual qualifying strategy by using the super-softs (Option) in Q1.

Mark Webber abandoned his second flying lap and will start in fourth position but ahead of the Scuderias. Once again, Felipe Massa has outqualified his team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov will line up on row four, with the Force Indias both reaching Q3 but choosing not to set any lap times.

Rosberg was the only Mercedes driver in the top ten as Michael Schumacher was squeezed out of the Q3 positions in a busy end to Q2. Troubled by a tyre vibration on his last timed lap, Schumacher was shuffled down to P12, between the Toro Rossos, with Jaime Alguersuari narrowly missing out on the top ten when di Resta jumped ahead in the closing moments.

Bruno Senna was six-tenths of a second down on his Renault team-mate Petrov in Q2 and will start the race in P15.

It was a low-key session for Sauber, as Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez took only P14 and P17 respectively, while Williams struggled again. Pastor Maldonado knocking out his more experienced team-mate Rubens Barrichello out in Q1 then only making it to P16.

While at the back, the Lotus, Virgin and HRT drivers lined up in familiar order, with Daniel Ricciardo unable to set a lap time due to a technical issue.

Qualifying times from Yeongam:

1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m35.820s
2.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m36.042s
3.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.126s
4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.468s
5.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m36.831s
6.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m36.980s
7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m37.754s
8.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              1m38.124s
9.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes no time
10.  Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes no time
11.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m38.315s
12.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m38.354s
13.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m38.508s
14.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m38.775s
15.  Bruno Senna           Renault              1m38.791s
16.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Cosworth    1m39.189s
17.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m39.443s
18.  Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m39.538s
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m40.522s
20.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m41.101s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m42.091s
22.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m43.483s
23.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         1m43.758s
24.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         no time

107 per cent time: 1m44.351s

Button wins race as Vettel claims title

Jenson Button scored his third victory of the season in Suzuka, fending off the late challenge from Fernando Alonso and ahead of the new world champion Sebastian Vettel.

After being squeezed on the run-down to Turn One from pole sitter Vettel, the McLaren driver had the superior pace to beat the Red Bull to win in Suzuka, while only a third place finish was enough for Vettel to win this season’s world championship. An impressive achievement following his remarkable season.

Vettel clearly would have preferred to clinch his second consecutive title with a win – underlining his determination by very firmly defending his lead against the fast-starting Button off the line.

The McLaren driver was not pleased to being nudged close to the grass and Button enquired over the radio to race control whether Vettel ought to get a penalty. The incident was investigated, but no action was taken.

As Button lost momentum, his team-mate Lewis Hamilton swept around the outside of him into second position, where he would stay until signs of a right-rear puncture forced him to slow abruptly and make a slightly early pit-stop at the end of lap seven. This would drop Hamilton to fourth once the first stops were completed, behind Alonso – who had passed his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa into the first corner early on.

Button was keeping his Pirellis in better shape than Vettel, and closed right in on the Red Bull at the end of the stint. Vettel pitted a lap earlier and stayed ahead in the first stops – but not in the second stops on laps 19 and 20, where Button’s superb in-lap pace and a great McLaren pit-stop got him out in the lead.

The safety car came out shortly afterwards to clear some debris, following a clash of carbon fibre involving Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton at the chicane. The pair was fighting for fourth and yet again the incident was being investigated. But in the end, no action was taken.

With the pack bunched up behind the safety car, Vettel found himself back in traffic when he made an early third stop to switch to the Prime tyres on lap 33.

Button ran three laps longer and extended his lead, with Alonso staying out a further lap still and emerging just ahead of the frustrated Vettel.

The soon-to-be-champion was all over Alonso, but Red Bull Racing told Vettel not to take any risks. Alonso then shot off after leader Button, closing to within a second before the McLaren raised its pace in response, setting the race’s fastest lap in the process.

Mark Webber jumped Massa and Hamilton with an early second pit-stop and secured fourth, while having lost out to Massa in the same pit sequence just after their clash, Hamilton overtook the Ferrari again into the first corner on lap 37.

Michael Schumacher took sixth for Mercedes, staying out very late before his third and final pit-stop and therefore leading a Grand Prix for the first time in his Formula One comeback. That strategy also allowed the seven-time world champion to beat his ex-Ferrari team-mate Massa to sixth.

The two-stop strategies worked effectively for Sauber’s Sergio Perez – who even set the fastest lap, only to beaten by Button – and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov as they took eighth and ninth. Nico Rosberg charged from the back row to take the final point for Mercedes.

Home hero Kamui Kobayashi’s hopes of a great race were ruined by a poor start that left him in traffic. He could only finish P13 for Sauber, behind the two Force Indias.

Bruno Senna also lost out on the opening lap, getting away slightly slowly, and then running wide. That and a slow first pit-stop left his Renault only in P16.

The only retirement in the Japanese Grand Prix was Sebastien Buemi, whose Toro Rosso left its first pit-stop with its right-front wheel dangling off.

So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel. The youngest back-to-back winner. To take the championship in Japan with four races left is a tremendous achievement. His next challenge is to win the constructors’ title for the team.

Japanese Grand Prix race result, Suzuka, 53 laps:

1.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           1h30:53.427
2.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +1.160
3.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           +2.006
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +8.071
5.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +24.268
6.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +27.120
7.  Massa         Ferrari                    +28.240
8.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +39.377
9.  Petrov        Renault                    +42.607
10.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +44.322
11.  Sutil         Force India-Mercedes       +54.447
12.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +1:02.326
13.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +1:03.705
14.  Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1:04.194
15.  Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth          +1:06.623
16.  Senna         Renault                    +1:12.628
17.  Barrichello   Williams-Cosworth          +1:14.191
18.  Kovalainen    Lotus-Renault              +1:27.824
19.  Trulli        Lotus-Renault              +1:36.140
20.  Glock         Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
21.  D’Ambrosio    Virgin-Cosworth            +2 laps
22.  Ricciardo     HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps
23.  Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth               +2 laps

Fastest lap: Button, 1:36.568

Not classified/retirements:
Buemi         Toro Rosso-Ferrari           35 laps

World Championship standings, round 15:

1.  Vettel       324
2.  Button       210
3.  Alonso       202
4.  Webber       194
5.  Hamilton     178
6.  Massa         90
7.  Rosberg       63
8.  Schumacher    60
9.  Petrov        36
10.  Heidfeld      34
11.  Sutil         28
12.  Kobayashi     27
13.  Di Resta      20
14.  Alguersuari   16
15.  Buemi         13
16.  Perez         13
17.  Barrichello    4
18.  Senna          2
19.  Maldonado      1

1.  Red Bull-Renault          518
2.  McLaren-Mercedes          388
3.  Ferrari                   292
4.  Mercedes                  123
5.  Renault                    72
6.  Force India-Mercedes       48
7.  Sauber-Ferrari             40
8.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari         29
9.  Williams-Cosworth           5

Next race: Korean Grand Prix, Yeongam. October 14-16.

Vettel edges out Button to take Suzuka pole

Sebastian Vettel claimed his twelfth pole position of the season at the Suzuka International Circuit, denying Jenson Button to the top spot by a tiny margin of only nine-thousandths of a second.

After setting the quickest times in all three practice sessions, it seemed that Button and McLaren can finally stop Red Bull Racing’s excellent qualifying form this season.

Lewis Hamilton was on provisional pole, but in a bid to improve his lap time at the end of Q3, the McLaren driver timed his final run too late and was passed by Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher at the chicane prior to the start of his lap.

His initial time of one minute, 30.617 seconds was beaten by the championship leader with a lap time of one minute, 30.466 seconds.

That left it up to Button to try and interrupt Red Bull Racing’s pole position form, but the Friday pacesetter fell agonisingly short… Vettel can claim this year’s world championship on Sunday by just scoring a single point, or if Button fails to win.

Hamilton ended up in third, while the Scuderia were fourth and fifth, Felipe Massa ahead of Fernando Alonso by 0.062 seconds. The latter had to abandon his first Q3 run after going off the track at Spoon Curve.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber could only manage sixth, despite setting the fastest sector one time.

Michael Schumacher was one of several drivers not to set a Q3 time as he saved a set of Pirellis for the race. His Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg was unable to run at all following a hydraulic issue that kept him in the garage and he will start in a disappointing P23.

Kamui Kobayashi delighted his home crowd by using the Option tyre to set the outright pace in Q1, then made it through to Q3, where he chose to save the tyres and did not set a flying lap.

Renault adopted the same tyre strategy with Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov starting eighth and ninth.

The Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil did not quite make Q3, but will share row sixth and ahead of the Williams of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado.

Having shown some top ten potential in practice, Toro Rosso looked like it might reach Q3 after the initial Q2 runs. But the team chose not to run again and the end of the session, so Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari found themselves pushed down to the eighth row.

Sergio Perez will start in P17 but suffered a hydraulic problem in the Sauber, so was unable to set a Q2 time.

While at the back of the grid, Team Lotus kept a one-second cushion over Virgin Racing, with Jerome D’Ambrosio out-qualifying his team-mate Timo Glock. Tonio Liuzzi’s bad weekend continued as his HRT developed further problems early in Q1 and stopped him setting a time.

By taking the all-important pole position at Suzuka ahead of his only realistic championship rival, Sebastian Vettel is only one step away from becoming the youngest back-to-back world champion. Can the German achieve this dream result on his favourite circuit? We will find out after 53 laps on Sunday.

Qualifying times from Suzuka:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m30.466s
2.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m30.475s
3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m30.617s
4.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m30.804s
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m30.886s
6.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m31.156s
7.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       No time*
8.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             No time
9.  Bruno Senna           Renault              No time
10.  Vitaly Petrov         Renault              No time
11. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m32.463s
12. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m32.746s
13. Rubens Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth    1m33.079s
14. Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Cosworth 1m33.224s
15.  Sebastien Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.227s
16.  Jaime Alguersuari     Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m33.427s
17.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       No time
18.  Heikki Kovalainen     Lotus-Renault        1m35.454s
19.  Jarno Trulli          Lotus-Renault        1m35.514s
20.  Jerome D’Ambrosio     Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.439s
21.  Timo Glock            Virgin-Cosworth      1m36.507s
22.  Daniel Ricciardo      HRT-Cosworth         1m37.846s
23.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             No time
24.  Tonio Liuzzi          HRT-Cosworth         No time

107 per cent time: 1m39.109s

*Originally listed as tenth, Kobayashi will in fact start seventh as he attempted to start a flying lap.

Drive review

Based on the novel by James Sallis and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive is about a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night.

When I first heard about Drive, I thought it would be a film adaption based on the popular video game Driver made by Reflections. The settings are very similar. You are a handy wheelman and can outrun the police after several bank jobs.

Ryan Gosling plays an unnamed Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as an ultra-efficient, no-questions-asked getaway driver, overseen in both cases by his friend and mentor Shannon (played by Breaking Bad’s star Bryan Cranston).

Though he normally keeps himself to himself, the driver’s solitary existence is ruffled when he forms an attachment with his beautiful neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son (Kaden Leos) after they move into his building.

When Irene’s ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison, the driver agrees to help him with the debt he owes a local gangster by agreeing to drive during a heist. However, when the heist goes wrong, the driver finds his life threatened by gang boss Nino (Ron Perlman) and crooked businessman Bernie (Albert Brooks), both of whom have history with Shannon.

Even with minimal dialogue and almost no facial expression except the occasional smile, Gosling delivers a super cool performance. It helps that his white satin, gold scorpion-emblazoned jacket he wears throughout the film made him look cool and hip.

There’s also strong support from Isaac, Perlman (who gets the best lines) and Cranston, not forgetting the eye-catching turn from Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks as gangster’s moll Blanche.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s impeccably stylish direction in Drive won him the Best Director in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. With long, fluid takes accompanied by a great soundtrack and some impressive production design work. Refn’s also directs some exciting action sequences, including that thrilling car chase, as well as heart-pounding scenes punctuated by explosions of strong violence.

I was highly impressed by Drive. The story and characters made it fascinating to watch and I was quite captivated by the action thanks to a strong script and a great lead performance from Ryan Gosling. Well recommended for quite possibly the coolest film this year.